Preseason Observations Week 1: Falcons vs. Ravens

Although the Atlanta Falcons fell to the Baltimore Ravens 31-17, the first-teamers looked sharp. It was everything Falcons fans have wanted to see from this team: an aggressive offense that picks up yardage in chunks and stifling defense that gives the opposing offense nothing.

Now, I know it’s only preseason, but these games do matter; they just don’t count. And thank goodness they don’t count, because the Falcons backups are mighty close to being abysmal. Their horrific performance would have cost the Falcons a win in the regular season.

Let’s start off with the good:

– Again, I know it’s only the first preseason game, but Julio Jones is poised for a monster season. In the first quarter, Jones had 109 yards on six receptions with a ridiculous 7-yard touchdown snag. He routinely beat the Ravens’ first-stringers, including Pro-Bowl cornerback Lardarius Webb. Also, he picked up 19 quick yards on a screen pass! Yes, a screen pass!

– Matt Ryan, aside from one interception, was on point: he went 9/13 for 155 yards, a touchdown, and the aforementioned interception. He threw several balls downfield: a far cry from what we’ve seen under former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. More importantly, those downfield throws were completed.

– The first-team defense shut down the Ravens’ first-team offense. The defense forced the Ravens into three straight three-and-outs. To further illustrate how lop-sided the effort was, by the end of the first quarter, the Falcons had nine first downs, and the Ravens had nine yards.

– The Falcons notched three sacks. None of those sacks came from John Abraham, Ray Edwards, or Sean Weatherspoon. Instead, it was Akeem Dent, Kroy Biermann, and Robert James who got the sacks. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said he’d rather have 10 guys with four sacks than four guys with 10 sacks. From the looks of it, that philosophy is coming to fruition.

– The offensive line protected Matt Ryan well. He wasn’t hit nor sacked, and he was pressured only once. Garrett Reynolds looked leagues better than we was last year at the right guard spot. After losing his job last year, Reynolds played with a chip on his shoulder.

– Dominique Franks had a nice 45-yard punt return. He very well could be the Falcons’ punt returner once the regular season starts.

And now for the bad:

– Bradie Ewing suffered what looked to be a serious injury. On a special teams play, Ewing’s foot got stuck in the turf, and he went down immediately. He was down for several minutes, and he was eventually helped off. Ewing was unable to put any weight on his left leg, and he was then carted off. It’s unfortunate for the rookie since he was competing with Mike Cox for the starting fullback job. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done for the season.

– Akeem Dent was knocked out on a special teams play as well. He went helmet to helmet with a Ravens blocker and immediately dropped to the ground. Once he regained consciousness, he was escorted off the field by a couple of trainers. He was able to walk off on his own power, but Mike Smith has to re-evaluate putting his starting middle linebacker on the special teams unit.

– If Ryan goes down, the Falcons are done. Chris Redman looked terrible, and John Parker Wilson looked even worse. The best backup quarterback was Dominique Davis: an undrafted free agent rookie out of East Carolina.

– Overall, the Falcons backups are pretty bad. They were beaten several times on defense, and couldn’t muster anything but a field goal on offense. The offense was shut out the entire second half of the game, while the Ravens put 24 additional points on the board.

– Harry Douglas didn’t dress for the game. He suffered a rib injury in the scrimmage against the Tennessee Titans on Monday.

– Replacement referee Craig Ochoa got “Atlanta” and “Arizona” confused on more than one occasion.

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